DUBLIN, Ireland (AFP) –
Brian O’Driscoll was named Thursday in the Ireland side to take on Italy in their Six Nations closer in Rome on Saturday in what could be his final match in the tournament.
O’Driscoll, along with centre partner Luke Marshall, was concussed during last weekend’s 13-13 draw with France, but both players have been passed fit.
The former skipper has struggled with injuries over the last three years and there have been reports in the Irish media that he is set to announce his retirement from international rugby at the age of 34.
However, Ireland head coach Declan Kidney was forced to change his starting line-up when fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who had been named in the team after missing the games against Scotland and France with a hamstring injury, was ruled out again.
Just two hours after being named in the side, Leinster playmaker Sexton withdrew after tearing a tendon in his left foot during a training session on Thursday.
Paddy Jackson deputised for Sexton in Ireland’s last two matches and he will win his third cap after being restored to the team to cover for the injury.
“Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton has been ruled out of the game against Italy on Saturday,” an Irish Rugby Football Union statement read.
“A scan has confirmed that he has torn a tendon in his left foot and is therefore ruled out this weekend.”
Ian Madigan, who made his debut against France last weekend, has been named among the replacements to fill the void left by Jackson’s promotion.
Craig Gilroy returns on the right wing after overcoming a groin strain, replacing rib-fracture victim Fergus McFadden.
The pack is unchanged from the team that started against France with lock Donnacha Ryan being passed fit after sustaining a shoulder injury in that game.
Ireland have never lost to Italy in the Six Nations with their last defeat to the Azzurri coming in 1997 before they joined the tournament.
Victory in Rome, combined with France defeating Scotland in Paris, would give the Irish third-place – a reasonable return given the number of injuries they have endured in the championship.
But defeat, combined with a French win, would thrust them into contention for the wooden spoon.
The Ireland team named on Thursday to play Italy in the Six Nations tournament in Rome on Saturday:-
Rob Kearney; Craig Gilroy, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Marshall, Keith Earls; Paddy Jackson, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahoney; Donnacha Ryan, Mike McCarthy; Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, David Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Paul Marshall, Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan.Published 14 Mar 2013, 22:42 IST